by: Ilse Strauss, News Bureau Chief
A thrill of anticipation rippled through the crowd. They’d come in their thousands, carrying a sea of red, green, white and black. Some of them shuffled impatiently, eager to move, to fight, to push back against the injustice. Others stared straight ahead, their faces set like flint at the thought of the horrors they’d come to decry.
As if on cue, the chant rang out, bellowed like a battle cry. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” It rose and swell, carried by a mob convinced of their own morality.
In the aftermath of October 7, this scene has become commonplace, with Pro-Palestinian protestors crowding city streets, town squares and college campuses with terrifying frequency. They come to stand for something bigger than themselves; to voice their outrage at the oppression; to demand a peaceable, fair and just solution to the abhorrent stain marring a society otherwise known for tolerance, social justice and political correctness.
It would all have been rather noble, had the entire cause not been a farce. That seems to matter little though. In the quest for tolerance, social justice and political correctness, society has long since abandoned the pursuit for truth and accuracy. “Not since the time of Dr. Goebbels has there been a case in which continual repetition of a lie has born such great fruits,” former Israeli minister Prof. Amnon Rubinstein argued nearly half a century ago. Today, his warning rings more true than ever. The cause of a historic Palestinian people in their ancient Palestinian homeland is indeed the most fruitful lie of our generation.
To be fair, it can all be a bit confusing. The Palestinians claim the strip of land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, arguing that their roots as a nation go back thousands of years. The Jewish people, on the other hand, have no ties to the land before 1948. They arrived as colonizers from Europe to drive the rightful owners out and then imposed a foreign Jewish culture and history on the land that has been home to a thriving Palestine nation for three millennia. As time goes by, more details emerge that are deftly woven into the narrative, until the farce is so intricate, colorful and emotive that it simply has to be true, right? After all, Jesus was a Palestinian. The Tomb of the Patriarchs—burial spot of Abraham, the father of the Jews—is a Palestinian heritage site. So is the Temple Mount. And did you know that today’s Palestinians are the posterity of the giant that faced King David?
Yet the Palestinian claims rest on a flimsy foundation of one part truth, nine parts fiction. According to the Palestinian narrative, this plot of land has been called Palestine since the foundations of time, with records bearing the term as early as the 12th century BC. In truth, early records mention “Peleshet” or the Pelisthim, a Hellenistic people who invaded Israel and established a five-city state on the Mediterranean coast to feature as Israel’s biblical archenemy. Yet the Babylonian invasion in the late fifth century BC obliterated the Philistines, who disappeared from the pages of history.
Fast forward to AD 135. Nearly two centuries of Roman occupation, reducing Jerusalem and the Second Temple to rubble and putting down yet another revolt had failed to break the Jewish yearning for freedom from their pagan colonizers. Roman Emperor Hadrian needed a new tactic. So the Roman leader set out to deJudaize the Promised Land, stripping it of its biblical name and erasing its Jewish identity. Judea became Syria Palaestina, a humiliating throwback to Israel’s archenemies, the Philistines.
Arabs are not indigenous to the Promised Land and came only in 637 AD when Umar ibn al-Khatab conquered the land as…wait for it…a colonizer. As part of the Arab–Muslim Empire, the name Syria Palaestina and its Gentile equivalent Palestine disappeared as a separate administrative or socio-cultural entity, with the Ottoman Turks, who ruled the Middle East from 1516 to 1917, viewing the geographical region of Palestine as a backwater part of Southern Syria, not an official designation.
For nearly 2,600 years, the Christians, Jews and Muslims living in what Hadrian had renamed Palestine were called Palestinians, which makes the term applicable to those who hail from a specific geographical area, not to describe an ethnic or religious group. In other words, the centuries before the rebirth of Israel were devoid of any sense of Palestinian identity, with no unique or separate Palestinian language, religion, nationality or culture. In fact, the Arab inhabitants didn’t even call themselves Palestinians, but identified as Muslims or Christians, members of a clan or a resident of a specific city.
Following their conquest of the area in World War I, Britain resurrected the name Palestine from the dust heap of antiquity to bestow it on a separate entity: a mandate held by the British Empire. In the years leading up to Israel’s independence, the moniker Palestinians became more prominent, used, however, to describe the Jews, not the Arabs, living in British Mandate Palestine. That identity is reflected in the institutions of the time, like the Palestine Post (later the Jerusalem Post) and the Palestine Symphony Orchestra (later the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra). The Arabs, on the other hand, scoffed at the term as “a British imperialist device” and wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, an Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition plan, “There is no such country [as Palestine]! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible.”
The transition from a geographical location to a fabricated people began at the turn of the previous century. As the Jewish people began to return to their ancient homeland—substantiating their claim of an uninterrupted presence on that particular plot of earth with undisputed archaeological and historical evidence—their Arab neighbors faced an identity crisis. That sense of disorientation ultimately prompted the emergence of a fabricated people with a fictional history and a name stolen from the British, who borrowed it from the Romans, who took it from Israel’s extinct biblical archenemy.
However, it was only after Israel recaptured Judea and Samaria from the Jordanians during the 1967 Six Day War that the Arabs—who rather than seek independence in 1948 after Jordan occupied the region, swore fealty to the Jordanian king—ushered an organized demand for an autonomous Palestinian state. And it was only some 20 years later in 1988, that the Palestinian Liberation Organization declared its intention of a Palestinian state separate from neighboring Arabs.
Attempts to physically annihilate the Jewish people are scattered through world history. But when those attempts prove unsuccessful, the enemies of Israel come with a different tactic.
In the end, the most fruitful lie of our generation is not about the fabrication of a people or the superimposition of their legacy in a history that bears no trace of it. Ultimately, it is about an attempt to use that fabrication to erase the fingerprints and footsteps of the Jewish people, to strip history of their existence and wipe their legacy from our consciousness. Why? Simple. The fingerprints and footsteps of ancient Israel speak of the character and nature of God. Through their tales, trials and tribulations, God reveals Himself to humanity. And today, the rebirth and thriving existence of the modern State of Israel stands as proof that God exists, that He is faithful and that He does what He says He will do.
This is about more than a people, land or social justice. It is about the God of Israel showing Himself true to His word.
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